By late August, Blaylock was ready to play wide receiver for Walton against North Gwinnett in the Corky Kell Kickoff Classic. He played only a limited role in that game, but earned AJC player-of-the-week honors the next Friday in a win over Brookwood.
This year, Blaylock is recovering from a torn ACL in his right knee. The injury occurred against LSU in the first quarter of the SEC Championship game Dec. 7. Dr. Robert Hancock performed surgery two weeks later in Athens.
By late January, Blaylock was running on a treadmill.
“So, he’s had a fast recovery,” Woods said. “Rehab’s going great.”
Blaylock’s rehab sheds light on another challenge created by football teams not being able gather this spring. Like all other colleges nationwide, Georgia has had to cease all athletic activities because of the novel coronavirus.
UGA’s classes resumed Monday, but only on an online basis. The campus remains closed. That includes the nationally renown training and rehabilitation facility run by Georgia sports medicine director Ron Courson.
Even athletes who remain in the Athens area are unable to access the premises. However, that doesn’t mean recovering athletes don’t have access to Georgia’s trainers.
“We are communicating regularly with our student-athletes and coordinating medical care as needed on an individual basis, whether that be home programs developed specifically for them or arrangements in their hometown,” Courson told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution via email. “Our sports medicine staff is available to help coordinate any medical needs our student-athletes may have during this period. We are utilizing telemedicine with behavioral medicine to continue appointments with clinicians and other forms of IT platforms and technology to share rehabilitation exercises and stay in communication with student-athletes.”
Indeed, Woods said Blaylock communicated with UGA sports medicine assistant Conner Tidmus on Monday morning via “Zoom,” an online digital conferencing system is using to communicate with its athletes as they’re fanned out at their homes all over the country. He said Blaylock talks to either Courson or one of his assistants “every day.”
Meanwhile, Blaylock is following a rehabilitation regimen prescribed to him by Courson. Blaylock visits physical therapist Brian Tovin — known for his work with several NFL stars — at the Sports Rehabilitation Center in Buckhead a “couple of days a week,” according to Woods. But the former 5-star recruiting prospect engages in some form or another of his prescribed rehab work or exercise “every day.”
On Monday afternoon, Blaylock was doing his online coursework in his upstairs bedroom at his parents’ house. Then he and the other receivers were to undergo their first online “chalk-talk meeting” with receivers coach Cortez Hankton later in the afternoon.
“He’s stuck at home, but it’s coming along great,” Woods said. “He’s been here with me for two weeks now and rehabs every day. … Now Dom worships Ron. If Ron told him to go climb Kennesaw Mountain, he’d go do it today. He does what Ron says.”
Blaylock is an important piece of Georgia’s puzzle whenever football resumes. As a freshman last season, he played in 12 of 13 games with three starts before the injury shut him down. He finished as the Bulldogs’ fourth-leading receiver, with 18 catches for 310 yards and five touchdowns. He had Georgia's longest touchdown catches of 60 and 51 yards against Arkansas State and Auburn, respectively, and led the wideouts with a 17.22 per-catch average.
Along with fellow rising sophomores George Pickens and Kearis Jackson and senior Demetris Robertson, Blaylock projects to be major part of Georgia’s receiver rotation whenever football resumes.
In the meantime, the Bulldogs have other players who are having to receive the attention and expertise of UGA’s trainers and doctors remotely. This was going to be an important spring for players such as guard Justin Shaffer, offensive tackle Owen Condon, outside linebacker Walter Grant, tight end Ryland Goede and quarterback D’Wan Mathis who are trying to make their way back to the field from injuries.
In Blaylock’s case, he wasn’t expected to be back on the field for spring practice. But fall seems like a safe bet.
“It’s going along faster than they thought,” Woods said. “He had no other damage and Dr. Hancock, who’s done (Todd) Gurley and Sony (Michel) and (Nick) Chubb’s knees, did a great job. … They weren’t going to let him go through spring and were going to bring him along slowly. But I don’t see how in the world he’s not dressed and ready to go (by August) camp.”
Whenever that might come.